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tv   Sex Slaves The Sunshine State  MSNBC  April 20, 2014 7:00pm-8:01pm PDT

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in the suburbs of orlando florida and all across america, the business of sex for sale is ruining young lives. >> i've heard people say prostitution is a victimless crime. it's not a victimless crime. if it was your daughter there, you would not be saying it's a victimless crime. >> girls trapped in despair and degradation. >> this is not some consenting adult having sex with another consenting adult for compensation. she's property. she's property to be bartered with, to be sold.
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>> tonight msnbc returns to the sunshine state and goes under cover with the polk county human trafficking task force. >> we're not here just to put people in jail. we're here to rescue people who need to be rescued. >> i don't want to ruin my life. >> it doesn't have to ruin your life. you're the only person who it change that. >> what do you want people to know about young women who are selling themselves. >> we are not all whores. there's people out there that really need help and there's really nowhere else to go. it's a friday afternoon on the outskirts of orlando, florida, and payday is a red letter day in the business of sex for sale. >> i'm looking for a little room
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service. can you come to mine? >> investigators are set up in a hotel conducting a human trafficking sting. male undercovers browse internet looking for sex sites like that page and booking dates with women. >> yeah. i'd really like to meet you. >> meanwhile female undercovers upload phony sex ads and upload them to that page in an effort to lure johns in the sting. >> here to make all your dreams come true. >> i usually charge $100. >> calls are high as would be johns are flush with cash and looking to kick off the weekend with a woman for hire. >> a lot of people coming home from work, except before they go home to their families, they are calling us and wanting to pay to have sex. >> there's a world out here that the normal world just doesn't
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understand. >> operations like these are essential to brady judd and his zero col rans. he wants those who think it's a victimless crime to take a harder look. >> this is not some consenting adult having sex with another consenting adult for compensation. she's property. she's property to be bartered with, to be sold. >> and for every seller of sex there's a buyer. while many jurisdictions may be more lenient on johns, men who try to pie sbuy sex are in for e awakening. >> welcome to polk county. this is what we do. hook them up and take them to jail. if you come to this county and try to obtain the services of a
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prostitu prostitute, you're going to get the full force and effect of the law. >> another one bites the dust. >> outside the sting hotel, sheriff's investigators keeps eyes on all who come and go. >> a white male walks in the door, dress shirt, dark slacks. >> shortly after 4:00 p.m., they got their first. a man heads up unaware every move is recorded by polk county sheriff's investigators. >> hi, how are you? >> the would be john is so excited to party with undercovers that he breaks into a spontaneous dance. >> lets get started. you guys have something to do. >> we get the money up first. >> absolutely. what we talked about? >> as soon as happy feet hands over $300 in exchange for the promise of sex, arresting officers move in and shut down the disco.
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48-year-old stephen sheridan, a certified public accountant from orlando. his arrest offers evidence that the buyers of sex come from all walks of life. even for this buttoned down businessman, it's just a short hop from spread sheets to bedsheets. mr. sheridan is shuttled across the hallway for processing. eagl he's unusually calm anded candid for a man about to buy sex. he tells police this isn't his first rodeo. >> you've done this before? >> yes. >> where? >> sheridan jokes with police about renewing his driver's license as if this arrest is an musing event.
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the next john in line will find his own arrest to be anything but funny. >> hey. >> a british citizen living and working in florida on a visa. >> life as they know it when they are arrested and walk through that door, life as they know it changes. in a split second they see it going away in front of their eyes. >> take a deep breath. >> it's not that big -- >> it is. it is. i'm not going to make it. i'm telling you now, this is wrong. >> not going to make what? >> i come up for a massage. i texted the lady earlier. i'm sorry. she texted me back. this is not the lady i spoke to. >> listen to me. you're going to go across the hall and talk to somebody. you'll have to relax and go through the process. >> you're going to be okay.
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>> no. >> i promise you are. >> you don't understand. >> sir -- >> the englishman is hustled across the hallway for processing. it quickly becomes evident he's terrified of being deported. >> you don't understand, i'll lose everything. i'll have to go back home. my wife i'll lose, my children, my grandson. please. can i explain. if you look at my text phone, this isn't what i came here for. no, but listen, please. >> what did you come here for? >> a massage. i spoke to a lady that was 49 years age. she said she would text me at 4:00. another lady phoned me and said you're still on for 4:00. this lady phoned me. this lady phoned me. as soon as i walked in, i said this isn't right. >> feeling right or not, mr. dennis did give the undercover $150 in exchange for the promise of sexual intercourse. >> is there any circumstances
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you can cut me a break. >> no, there's not. >> you really want me to be deported for one stupid mistake. >> this is not his first mistake. mr. dennis pleaded guilty to another prostitution charge in 2008. >> are you under a doctor's care? do you feel like hurting yourself? no kidding. no jokes. >> this individual was extremely upset. asked him if he was suicidal and he said yes. you're suicidal? >> the processing room no place to joke about suicide. >> they will put you in a straight jacket for three days. >> a mandatory detour for psychiatric evaluation. >> at that point in time when they make statements like that, we have no choice. he's in custody. at that point we have to ensure the safety. >> we don't know if you meant it or not. >> i understand. >> i told you on the front end,
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don't joke. don't exaggerate. >> stephen dennis came to polk county looking to buy a woman. instead he's on his way to the psych ward in the county jail. he wants other johns to know the same fate could befall them. >> quite frankly for every johnny embarrass i scare off 100 more at least in this county. >> how did you get started doing this? who introduced you to doing it. >> ex-girlfriend. >> why do you continue to do it? >> i don't know. the problem isn't likely to go away... ...on its own. so it's time we do something about it. and there's help. premarin vaginal cream. a prescription that does what no over-the-counter product was designed to do. it provides estrogens to help rebuild vaginal tissue
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and make intercourse more comfortable. premarin vaginal cream treats vaginal changes due to menopause and moderate-to-severe painful intercourse caused by these changes. don't use premarin vaginal cream if you've had unusual bleeding, breast or uterine cancer, blood clots, liver problems, stroke or heart attack, are allergic to any of its ingredients or think you're pregnant. side effects may include headache, pelvic pain, breast pain, vaginal bleeding and vaginitis. estrogen may increase your chances of getting cancer of the uterus, strokes, blood clots or dementia, so use it for the shortest time based on goals and risks. estrogen should not be used to prevent heart disease, heart attack, stroke or dementia. ask your doctor about premarin vaginal cream. and go to premarinvaginalcream.com this is worth talking about.
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there's no dip in that bowl. they're new pringles tortillas. so good, they don't need dip. mmmm... not bad, right? i'll have some more! that's a double dip! you... double dipped... new pringles tortillas. you dip 'em or don't. pringles!
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it happens every day in america. >> we get the money. >> absolutely. >> legions of men across the
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county are laying down cold, hard cash for sex. >> thank you. >> is that what we talked about? >> yes. >> most of the time they do not get caught. today the sheriff's department is conducting a trafficking sting. >> sometimes the johns are clear-cut guys that have no idea they are walking into a potential din of criminals that will not only take their money but take their life. >> stand up and follow the detective out this door. >> in fact, most men who are caught buying sex express little regard for prostitution. >> how is that going to affect your employment? >> 48-year-old stephen sheridan is by all outward appearances an upstanding middle class american. he's also a repeat customer in the sex for sale game. >> you seem like a very educated
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person, why are you doing this? >> that's a good question. >> you've got to know this is the risk you take. >> sheridan agrees to speak with our producer grace kong. >> are you married? >> no, divorced. >> okay. >> two weeks ago. >> are you serious? >> yeah. >> he admits to buying women for sex before without giving it much thought. >> so i think men like you who buy sex in america need to have a deeper understanding of what kind of industry you're propping up. i always say to men, do you think women want to make a living this way? i always say it because. >> i can't imagine. >> it's tough. you'll meet a few here. >> a few hours before he goes to jail. he'll have a seat for the human suffering that's underground sex trade. >> one chick in 45 minutes
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brining a friend also. $200 apiece. >> male undercover in contact with a woman who will bring a friend for what is known as a two-girl show. shortly after 5:00 p.m. they arrive. >> hello. how are you? what are you doing in orlando? >> i'm here one night. >> making deals can be awkward. >> the undercover asks about price but the women are leery of specifics. he must wait until they signal their intent for a sexual service. >> you need to get comfortable. that will make me more comfortable. >> what do you want me to do. >> get naked? >> go ahead. get naked. >> stand up, please. >> hey, we doing it in front? >> in front unless they are giving us problem. >> the women in custody 34-year-old shawna and
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26-year-old lindsey, both from orlando. >> how many times have you been arrested for this? >> my second time. >> never. >> this is second time ever arrested. >> ever arrested for the same thing. >> we didn't take any money, ask for amount of money. we didn't mention anything we were doing but we were still detained. >> everything you said, everything you did is all recorded. >> i know. >> did you ask somebody to take their clothes off. >> body ladies asked the undercover to get naked. according to florida criminal code, that is soliciting a lewd act. furthermore the undercover worked out a price of $400 with shawna on the phone prior to their arrival. >> how did you get started doing this? who introduced you to doing it? >> an ex-girlfriend. i used to strip. >> why do you continue to do it? >> i don't know. >> is it good money? honestly. >> not really. >> are you unable to find another job. >> i work at red lobster.
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>> you have another job? >> uh-huh. >> you need extra money. >> i just had a baby. >> so many people live in a world they don't believe there is going on. it does to all different girls out there, all walks of life. >> you don't get nervous something will happen to you. >> i don't go out a lot. >> i find once these girls get involved in it, they almost feel like there is no way out. >> the women are placed in the holding room to await transfer to jail. it's an opportunity for mr. sheridan to hear facts of life not uncommon in the sex trade. lindsey tells the producer she's a fan of the sex slave series. >> if you watch the show, my god, why would you do this? >> i don't know. i'm dumb. >> is somebody making you do it? >> no. >> seriously? >> yeah. things are rough right now.
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>> how rough are they? >> a couple of bad things happened before i was 18, turned me -- >> did somebody rape you? >> yeah. >> an older man? >> yeah. he was one of my favorite uncles. >> oh, my god. that must have been tough for your dad. did you tell your dad? >> i don't know what happened to my uncle. i never heard from him again. >> you know it's not your fault. you didn't deserve that. nobody deserves that. >> horror stories like lindsey's are all too common in the underground sex trade. experts say 90 to 95% of women in the life were victims of incest and child rape. >> some of these young ladies, they have been sexually abused all their life. so when we come in saying you don't have to live like this, there's a better way, and we want to help you, they look at us like we're from mars. >> this man's attitudes about
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buying sex may or may not change today, but his time in custody has afforded him a rare glimpse at the real face of prostitution and the pain that lives behind the fake smiles of the women who service him. >> i did nothing. >> i'm here to detain you. the people that can answer questions will answer them. [ male announcer ] first the cookie at check-in... then a little time to kick back. earn double hilton honors points with the 2x points package and be one step closer to a weekend break.
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it's a friday afternoon, investigators with polk county sheriff's office are set up undercover in a hotel conducting a human trafficking sting. >> all right. she's coming up the front door. long hair. >> this woman guys by the name autumn storm. >> she's coming inside the lobby. >> she engages the undercover in preliminary small-talk, then retreats to the bathroom to slip into something a little more comfortable. while offering the undercover this preview of the merchandise, autumn storm agrees to $400 in exchange for 90 minutes of sex.
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>> she said she won't do an al but does everything else. >> arresting officers move in and take her into custody. >> 42-year-old kimberly a divorced mother from the nearby town of winter haven, florida. billed in her online ad as a cougar she reacts to the first arrest with a growl. >> i've done nothing. i'm here to meet a blind date. >> i've never been arrested. >> there's a first time for everything. >> somebody should explain to me what's going on. >> you offered to give somebody sex and oral sex for $400. that's what you did wrong. >> no, i didn't. >> tell the judge. >> okay. >> among her effects they find a dozen comments and stun guns. >> i take it on dates. >> you take it on dates.
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>> testimony to the very real dangers that lurk in the sex trade. >> i'm not a prostitute. i'm on sugar daddy. i'm on a lot of sites with guys who are married and want to hook up and hang out go to dinner. >> despite her arrangement with undercover she bristles at the suggestion she's selling sex for money. >> i'm on a blind date. yes, i give a false name to guys i don't know. especially when i have a boyfriend. >> you're on a blind date. >> what man doesn't cheat? >> me and my wife. >> i've heard that before. >> bring him up here. >> almost on cue, police apprehend kimberly's so-called boyfriend in the parking lot and march him upstairs to a room. >> how old are you?
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>> 42. i'm 46. my girlfriend is 42. >> at the time of his arrest he has a handgun tucked into his waistband, which is perfectly legal in florida with his conceal permit. >> you have a right to remain silent. >> he tells police he's currently working in a pawn shop, going through a divorce and living in his mother's house. >> i just recently split up with my wife. she split up and we got together. >> you're not divorce freddie your wife? >> not yet. >> she maintains she's stepping out on a blind date, he tells police a completely different story. >> which? partners. she wanted to go on a date. >> she tells police kim is a swinger. he says i has no idea she's an escort. >> how long has she been escorting that you know of. >> i did not know that. >> greg, come on, come on, come
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on. >> i have no money. i did not know she was doing it. >> this guy here, his girlfriend of several months, he drove her to the location for her to engage in sex with a guy or girl. she didn't explain to him. >> i thought she was just going to hook up with someone. >> so tonight you thought she had a date. you were supposed to drop her off and come back. >> she told me to pick her up in a little while and i said okay. >> you don't have a problem with that? >> no, sir. we're promiscuous. >> since he claims to be in the dark they enlighten him. >> born and raised right here. >> here is greg's shocked face. it's the one he wears when he discovers his so-called girlfriend is selling sex online. >> who took them pictures? >> where is that picture taken,
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at your house? is that your house? >> he refuses any photo credits and appears shocked when he learns how much kim is charging for her services. >> overpasses $5,000. twelve hours, $5,000. tampa area, $5500. you want 12 hours with her, $5500. what's your response? >> totally disgusted. i had no idea. >> you're not disgusted by her being a swinger but you're disgusted by her paying for it. >> anything happens from this day forward, you are made aware now. so you can't claim ignorance anymore. >> kimberly you're here because it's a misunderstanding. >> yes. total misunderstanding. >> meanwhile in the other room, nobody has told kimberly greg has flipped the script and cast her as a swinger.
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she's running the old lines from her original story. >> kimberly, is your boyfriend going to be upset? >> i don't think he'll be happy, but people do things. we all make stupid mistakes going behind our boyfriends, girlfriend's backs. nobody is perfect. >> swingers or not, kimberly and greg's flimsy charade is evidence of nonsense vice detectives encounter every day on the job. getting straight stories from pimps and the women they control can seem like an impossible task but a task polk county sheriff's investigators will not avoid. soon their efforts will pay off. >> we're not here just to put people in jail. we're here to rescue people that need to be rescued. >> i don't want this to ruin my life. >> it doesn't have to. it doesn't have to ruin your
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i'm melissa rehberger. boston red sox held a tribute to the victim, survivors and heroes of last year's boston marathon bombing. they will have a higher police presence. divers making headway with the sunken ferry in south korea. 61 confirmed dead and about 240 remain missing. most are high school students. reuben hurricane carter passed away. he spent 19 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. back to msnbc undercover. spend some time with polk kmpbt's prostitution task force, you'll see the purpose behind this effort is more than numbers
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on a tote board. >> we're not here to put people in jail. we're here to rescue people that need to be rescued. we want to help. that's why we do this. >> the reality is that most women arrested in stings like these will not ask for help. most are under a heel of a pimp, many addicted to drugs, some see no other way to put food on the table. >> i can't worry about the 100 that won't let us help them. i can just rejoice for the one that will let me help them. our deputies go out every day looking for these folks to pull them out of that environment. >> i have a couple of girls showing interest but we'll see. >> this male undercover is in contact with a young looking female. her ad says she's 20 but he suspects she may be a juvenile.
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after some negotiation by text she agrees to an outcall and arrives at the hotel shortly before 9:30. >> a price of $340 is agreed upon for half hour of sex. >> are you good? >> yes. >> as soon as money changes hand, sheriff's deputies move in and make the arrest. >> the woman in custody is quiet and cooperative but deputies get a sense of her distress. >> where is your mom and dad? >> my dad i haven't talked to i couldn't tell you how long. my mom it's probably been about a year. she's really sick. >> a tattoo on stephanie's back
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offers detectives insight on her family history. >> colesta purchase i knew it was an old school name, mom or grand grandma. >> people put tattoos on their back for a couple of reasons, one they are easy to hide. >> i haven't been the best daughter. i was starting to cause a lot of problems. i don't feel like i'm good enough for them. >> outside the hotel police detained the man who delivered stephanie to the date and bring him up to the processing room. 25-year-old simon hudson is just a friend, according to stephanie, but police are understandably suspicious he may
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be her pimp. >> were you going to give him any money tonight? >> no. i don't pay him any cash. >> obviously he knows what you're doing up here. he didn't try to convince you you shouldn't be doing? >> he told me i shouldn't be doing it but i make my own decisions. >> stephanie is moved to another room and given the opportunity to meet with a social worker. meanwhile detectives turn their attention to simon. >> what are you doing here? >> she asked me for a ride and i came down here. >> what were you giving her a ride for? >> she said she had a date and stuff. >> a date meaning what? >> that means usually she's coming down to see somebody. >> is she a prostitute? >> yeah. it's never been said like that but that's what i'm assuming. >> you're there to give her a ride? >> yeah. >> how much money were you getting for giving her a ride? >> she hasn't told me yet.
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>> she was going to give you money. >> for driving her. >> despite stephanie's efforts to protect him, simon just incriminating himself for deriving proceeds from prostitution, on top of a prior conviction for cultivating marijuana. >> he claimed he's best friends with this girl he brought up here and he was helping her out bringing her up here, allowing her to make money. at the same time he's expected to be paid for services of bringing her up here. >> it's not like something i was planning on doing. she doesn't have a license. >> have you ever tried to convince her to do something else. >> i've tried. >> what do you mean tried? giving her a ride and getting $20 or $30. >> i understand i'm getting something out of this. >> the problem is you don't understand what you're doing is wrong. >> i understand what i'm doing is wrong. everything is going through now. i'd rather not have this
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conversation with you. why are you feeling like this? why are you saying i'm the problem for this? i don't feel like i've done anything to force anybody to do it. >> you're encouraging her? >> i haven't. i've done everything to ask her not to do it. >> take money for her. >> we have to survive. i don't understand why you're judging belike that. >> drops her off to meet a complete stranger and waits down the road for a call. >> independent. i totally get what you're coming from. what i'm doing is not a totally awesome thing. it's not like i'm this girl's pimp, you know what i'm saying? i don't have anything to do with this. this aspect has nothing to do with me. she asked me for a ride, i gave her a ride. >> simon's actions tonight are a huge blunder. >> i already soo he this is not going to be awesome. >> his arrest violates the terms of his probation. he's sent to county jail to await a hearing.
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>> what do you want people to know about young women who are selling themselves? >> we are not all whores. there's people out that need help and there's nowhere else to go. so it's time we do something about it. and there's help. premarin vaginal cream. a prescription that does what no over-the-counter product was designed to do. it provides estrogens to help rebuild vaginal tissue and make intercourse more comfortable. premarin vaginal cream treats vaginal changes due to menopause and moderate-to-severe painful intercourse caused by these changes. don't use premarin vaginal cream if you've had unusual bleeding, breast or uterine cancer, blood clots, liver problems, stroke or heart attack, are allergic to any of its ingredients or think you're pregnant. side effects may include headache, pelvic pain, breast pain,
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vaginal bleeding and vaginitis. estrogen may increase your chances of getting cancer of the uterus, strokes, blood clots or dementia, so use it for the shortest time based on goals and risks. estrogen should not be used to prevent heart disease, heart attack, stroke or dementia. ask your doctor about premarin vaginal cream. and go to premarinvaginalcream.com this is worth talking about. a short word that's a tall order. up your game. up the ante. and if you stumble, you get back up. up isn't easy, and we ought to know. we're in the business of up. everyday delta flies a quarter of million people while investing billions improving everything from booking to baggage claim. we're raising the bar on flying and tomorrow we will up it yet again.
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truck of the year and first ever back-to-back champion. guts. glory. ram. it's a friday night in polk county, florida, and 21-year-old stephanie is under arrest for prostitution. >> have you ever been arrested before for prostitution? >> no. >> where is your mom and dad? >> my dad i haven't talked to in i can't tell you how long. my mom, it's probably been about a year. she's really sick. >> almost immediately arresting
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officers sense her despair and vulnerability. >> do you think this is probably the best thing for you to be doing? >> absolutely not. >> i've heard a lot of people say prostitution is a victimless crime and should be legalized. my response to that is you need to sit in an interview with me. >> you need to watch these girls and watch the amount of emotions they go through in the matter of five or ten minutes when i'm speaking to them. it's not a victimless crime. if it was your daughter there, you would not be saying it's a victimless crime. >> i don't want this to ruin my life. >> it doesn't have to. it doesn't have to ruin your life. the only person that can change that is you. i tell these girls when they are arrested it's a blessing you're arrested tonight. hopefully this will change. >> stephanie, this is your a dangerous thing you're doing. you're too good for this. your know that?
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>> stephanie tells our producer grace she had been living in her car and selling sex periodically for food and gasoline. >> did somebody get you back in the game or did you feel like you had no choice. >> i had no choice. >> prrp you living? >> in my car. >> you were homeless. >> uh-huh. >> how did you get involved with selling yourself. >> somebody introduced me to it. >> who, simon? >> no. >> at the time of her arrest stephanie was traveling in the company of a man named simon hudson. >> she asked me for a ride. i gave her a ride. >> hudson was charged with deriving proceeds from prostitution after admitting he took money for driving her. >> do you know what human trafficking is? >> yes. >> he claims he's not her pimp. he claims he's actually her best friend. >> i don't like the fact these people are making it out that seems like i'm an individual
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forcing somebody -- i'm not forcing anybody. she doesn't have a license and she asked me to drive her here. i'm not doing to sit here and let people act like i'm a human trafficker. >> is she living with you now? >> yeah. >> how long? >> i don't know exactly, maybe six months. >> was she homeless when she met you? >> she was not homeless. she lived out of her car. i told her that wasn't okay, that i didn't want her to be out on the streets like that. she could sleep -- i slept in the living room for a long time. >> now where are you sleeping? >> in my room. she stays in my room. >> i can't force her not to do something. i felt like i was helping her more than any other means i had by at least making sure she had somebody and she wasn't alone.
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i felt like at least making sure she wasn't by herself was at least better than nothing. >> after hearing hundreds of similar stories her pimps and traffickers, experienced investigators are unmoved by simon's good samaritan pitch. he's shuttled off to the county jail where he'll face a pimping charge on top of probation violation for a prior marijuana conviction. stephanie insists there's more to the story and seemon is not really what he seems? >> he's not a pimp. i never gave him money. my license is suspended. i asked him to take me somewhere and he took me. >> a few months after her arrest stephanie was in the midst of a remarkable transformation. she agreed to sit down in front of the cameras and tell us more about herself and time in the underground sex trade. >> you had a hard, hard number of years. i don't think there's ever been a time when your life wasn't
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hard? >> i can't remember. if it was, it was probably before i was eight. >> like the vast majority of women working in the sex trade, stephanie was a victim of child sexual abuse. she said she was raped by her stepfather when she was eight. >> it's hard. it's not like you wake up every day with the thought, big red letters, i was molested, raped when i was a kid but it's always here. >> on top of recurring sexual abuse, stephanie said there was also physical and psychological abuse that prevented her from telling anyone about her predicament. >> i was really scared if i did something wrong that he would punish me, spank me. he hit my mom. he would throw things at my mom, too. it wasn't a good marriage. i felt like if i throw more on top of this, what is he going to do to my mom, what is he going
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to do to me. at eight it's hard to weigh it out. >> it's hard to believe. of course no mother wants to hear that. no mother ever wants to hear that happened to her child. where was i? what was i doing? how could this have happened right under my nose and i knew nothing about it? . >> i want to say your kid is going to want to come home. whatever happened in the past, fix whatever it is and get your kids back home. but i don't want my breathing problems to get in the way of hosting my book club. that's why i asked my doctor about b-r-e-o. once-daily breo ellipta helps increase airflow from the lungs for a full 24 hours. and breo helps reduce symptom flare-ups that last several days and require oral steroids, antibiotics, or hospital stay. breo is not for asthma. breo contains a type of medicine that increases risk of death in people with asthma. it is not known if this risk is increased in copd.
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it's a friday night at the polk county jail. the paddy wagon delivering men and women arrested in a human trafficking sting. among those on board is stephanie, a 20-year-old tampa native whose role in sexual servitude since she was a child. >> it seems like i've been an
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object of lust my whole life. >> stephanie carries the psychological scars of sexual abuse. at the tender age of eight, she said she was raped by her stepfather. >> for a while i couldn't stand to look at myself. i'd try to be a tomboy, the complete opposite of a girl. they called me stephen when i was little just because i tried so much not to be a little girl because i was getting touched and molested and stuff. so if i'm a little boy playing in dirt and worms and stuff, maybe they will leave me alone. it never worked that way. >> that time in my life was never a stable time. there was turmoil. >> stephanie's mother struggled as a single parent after divorcing from stephanie's biological father. she remarried when stephanie was
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seven but suffered from physical and psychological abuse with her second husband. >> there was fighting and arguments and unhappiness with the relationship. that stems into the child's happiness as well. they don't like to see their mom or their parent in turmoil or unhappy or sad. >> stephanie said her unhappiness ran much deeper than her mother could ever have imagined. like many victims of child sexual abuse, young stephanie never breathed a word to anyone, not even her biological father. she was terrified of violent retribution from her stepfather. >> he would spank me so bad sometimes that my mom couldn't send me to my dad's that weekend. i was very scared. i couldn't go see my dad for two weeks at one point because i had hand prints from him whipping me so bad. >> it was only after the second marriage ended in divorce that
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colesta finally learned the truth from her daughter. >> your immediate is your shocked, surprised. how could that have happened right under my nose and i knew nothing about it. >> did you ever confront the man? >> did i confront him? yeah. i talked to him. he denied it and said it never happened. >> and there was an investigation? >> uh-huh. >> stephanie's claims prompted an investigation by local authorities, but it was too little too late. there was no evidence and no case to be made. >> because i guess too many years had gone by. they didn't have evidence. they didn't have proof. >> nevertheless, colesta says she believes her daughter and has great remorse for her inability to protect her. >> that's hard for me to deal with. i feel guilty. if i had given my child a better life, or i had a better
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education myself, or if i could have done better things, you know, i feel like i could have somehow prevented that. >> so you have guilt? >> oh, yeah, lots of guilt. lots of guilt. >> at 17, stephanie dropped out of school and left home. she got a job at a restaurant and eventually fell in love with a co-worker who invited her to live with him. that relationship soon took an all too familiar turn towards vile en. >> yeah. he ended up hitting me. we got into an argument. i ended up in the same week with two black eyes and arm in a sling. popped my shoulder out of place. seeing everything that happened to my mom, it was better to live in my car than keep walking around with black eyes. >> unwilling to stick around for abuse and feeling estranged from her mother, stephanie fell in with some girlfriends who
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eventually introduced her to the idea of selling sex online. >> i don't want to say it wasn't a big deal, but it's like because i've had it happen to me before, i just disconnect myself. i don't know if that makes sense. i'm there but i'm not there, because i used to have to do it all the time. >> because of the constant abuse in your house when you were just eight, this is not something that just happened once? >> no. >> it was a regular occurrence? >> yes. >> so you already had a coping mechanism for that? >> yes. i don't like what i did, you know, but i did it. it's what i had to do at the time. got to survive, got to eat. you've got to keep on going. >> so it was that stephanie came to be arrested by polk county sheriff investigators in the spring of 2013. >> do you know what human
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trafficking is? >> yeah, i understand what it is. >> her companion 25-year-old simon hudson eventually pleaded guilty to deriving money from prostitution. stephanie claims simon is unfortunate victim of a misunderstanding. >> in no way, shape or form is he exploiting you? >> no, never. he found out i was homeless and sleeping in my car. he said, you can sleep with me. simon slept in the living room for two months. i hadn't slept in a bed in so long. simon showed me a lot of kindness. >> when we sat down with stephanie, by then she had stopped selling sex and her friendship with simon had grown deeper. shortly after our interview, simon was back in the county jail for another probation violation. this time exceeding his 10:00
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p.m. curfew. nonetheless, stephanie maintains loyal. >> he makes me want to be better, because he is constantly reminding me how good of a person he thinks i am. >> what do you want people to know about young women who are selling themselves? >> we're not all whores. we're not all trying to get a drug fix. there's people out there that really need help and there really is nowhere else to go. >> today stephanie is back at home with her mother colesta working at a restaurant and saving money. stephanie is now hoping for the chance to go to nursing school and put the past behind her. >> you can start over and make a new life for yourself. no, it's not going to be easy but you can do it. >> yes, i did make a mistake. it's okay to make mistakes. i mean, it's inevitable. but after this, somebody might look at me and be like, that
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girl went through a lot and she's still there. good for her. go her. >> turnarounds like stephanie's happen every day. they often begin with arrests and interventions like those we've seen here in polk county. sheriff grady judd wants the public to know the problem will never go away without the help of ordinary citizens. >> people need to go to their mayor, to the county commissioners, city commissioners, local police chief, local sheriff and say, what are you doing? we're tired of it. we're fed up with it. if we all work together, could we resolve this? we absolutely could. we could never stop it 100%, but we could turn that foughtette all the way to where there was just a drip as opposed to it running wide open, which is what's it's doing right now.
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what kind of tattoos you got? got any tattoos? >> every day across america, and around the world, human traffickers who call themselves pimps are selling women like commodities and branding them like cattle. >> the pimps will brand the girls, put their tattoos on their neck or have their names somewhere on their body. >> it is a particular depravity to tattoo somebody, to mark them as your property. and that is what is going on. >> beaten and living in fear, more and more young american women are now being scarred for life.

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